Time Matters

Time matters.If a person follows my blog for any length of time, he or she will discover that I have little patience for absolute statements or generalizations. They tend to turn me into a rebel. I become determined to prove the statement wrong. That happens to be the case with the following statement: “All people are deadline driven and time oriented.”

I found that particular statement in an article about email etiquette and increasing the likelihood of receiving a prompt reply. I decided to read the article – even after stumbling upon the absolute statement – since I sometimes struggle to receive timely replies. The article contained relevant points, but I realized that I already did most of the things the article suggested. I began to wonder if the problem had nothing to do with my email etiquette and everything to do with the fact that not all people are deadline driven and time oriented.

My thought may have some validity; one of my friends told me that he isn’t deadline driven, but he is time oriented. I couldn’t fathom that statement as a deadline driven and time oriented person, so he explained: “I’m definitely not deadline driven (or I’d have books published by now), but I’m time oriented. I don’t like my time wasted, and even though I’m aimless, I like to do as many aimless things as I can do in a day.” His point is interesting. Is it possible to be time oriented without being deadline driven? I suppose it is. A person who is time oriented – but not necessarily deadline driven – understands the importance of time and is courteous of other people’s schedules. That person doesn’t waste time, even if he or she purportedly is pursuing “aimless things.”

I think my friend is in a small minority of people. I don’t know many other people who are time oriented but not deadline driven. I know a number of people who are both deadline driven and time oriented. I also know a growing number of people who are not deadline driven or time oriented. I know this because I interact with them on a regular basis. They don’t respond promptly to emails or telephone calls regardless of the specificity of them. They don’t arrive to meetings on time, or they reschedule at the last minute. They then apologize for their behavior with the ever-popular, “I’ve been really busy with work, family, et cetera, et cetera.”

Again, I don’t understand that behavior. I don’t understand it when my friends act that way, and I certainly don’t understand it when clients – potential or current – act similarly. Rescheduling dinner (preferably not at the last minute) with a friend is one thing. Rescheduling a meeting about an upcoming project or waiting for approval for a blog post or e-letter via email or telephone are another. In those two cases, time is of the essence. Prompt responses are required regardless of one’s personal attitude toward deadlines and time.

Are you deadline driven and time oriented? Are you time oriented but not deadline driven? What do you do when potential or current clients don’t respond in a timely manner? Let me know in the comments.

Originally published September 21, 2011